The remainder of this guide will teach you how to pack your drone batteries for air travel in accordance with FAA and TSA guidelines.
Drones are considered Personal Electronic Devices when they are turned off and carried by passengers on a plane. This is because they are powered by lithium-ion batteries. Because of the heat and energy that these batteries may release in the event of a short-circuit, shock, or thermal event, these devices pose a potential threat to the flight.
Before you pack that drone in your suitcase, you should consider whether it will comply with TSA requirements, FAA hazardous material regulations, airline policies, and drone laws in both your take-off location and arrival destination. Here are the essential drone travel tips.
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Are Drone Batteries Allowed on Planes?
You must adhere to FAA hazardous materials regulations because lithium-ion (LIPO) batteries power the majority of drones. LIPO batteries should be stored in your carry-on baggage.
However, we find that the regulations surrounding traveling with lithium-ion batteries are clearer and simpler to follow for carry-on baggage. In some cases, you may be allowed to pack them in your checked baggage.
LIPO Batteries in Carry-On Baggage
You must be aware of the battery’s watt hours (Wh) when putting LIPO batteries in your carry-on luggage. When packing LIPO batteries with 100 Wh or less in your carry-on baggage, follow these procedures:
- LIPO batteries must be packed in one of the following ways to prevent short circuits while traveling: you can leave the batteries in their retail packaging, tape over the battery terminals, use a battery case, use a battery sleeve in a camera bag, or tuck the batteries firmly inside a plastic bag or protective pouch.
- Bring only batteries that you will use personally, including for work. Batteries should not be packaged for resale or distribution by a vendor.
- Check for any airline-specific requirements for bringing LIPO batteries onboard in your carry-on bag.
When packing LIPO batteries with more than 100 Wh but less than 160 Wh in your carry-on baggage, follow these procedures:
- You must get permission from the airline in order to bring a larger LIPO battery (more than 100 Wh) onboard in your carry-on luggage.
- No more than two extra batteries with 100 Wh each should be packed.
- Store batteries in their original packaging, a battery case, or a separate pouch or pocket to protect them from a short circuit.
Before you board the plane, check out these devices:
- Are Power Banks Allowed on Planes?
- Is a 20000mah Power Bank Allowed in Flight?
- Is a 30000mah Power Bank Allowed in Flight?
- Are Batteries Allowed on Planes?
- Are Suitcases With Batteries Allowed on Planes?
LIPO Batteries in Checked Baggage
LIPO batteries with 100 Wh or less can only be stored in checked luggage if they are safely mounted inside the drone. LIPO batteries containing more than 100 Wh that are packed in checked baggage require airline authorization.
Any Wh of extra LIPO batteries is not permitted in checked luggage. Only the battery inside your drone is allowed in checked baggage. Instead, bring extra batteries in your carry-on bag, and make sure they are protected by their original packaging, a battery case, or another pouch or pocket.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requires as per Doc9284 the following provisions to be observed for PED (and subsequently for drones belonging to passengers):
- batteries can be carried by passengers or crew for personal use only
- batteries should be carried as carry-on baggage
- if batteries are carried in checked baggage, measures must be taken to prevent unintentional activation
- batteries and cells must be of a type that meets the requirements of each test in the UN Manual of Tests and Criteria, Part III, paragraph 38.3. (ask the drone or battery manufacturer, or airline staff during check-in in case of doubt about this provision, which is of paramount importance as it implies the battery is certified to sustain all possible adverse conditions that can be encountered during flight)
- any spare battery must be transported as carry-on luggage (absolutely forbidden as checked-in luggage, remember this point when packing your luggage and advise the airline staff or cabin crew if, for any reason, your carry-on luggage will be loaded in the cargo hold)
- spare batteries must be individually protected, to prevent short circuits (by placement in original retail packaging or by insulating terminals, e.g. by taping over exposed terminals or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch).
Taking Your Drone through Customs
Most often, drone laws are established and implemented by the nation’s national or civil aviation authority.
For instance, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the United States and Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA) in Canada are each responsible for setting drone regulations. Identifying the civil aviation authority in the country you’re traveling to can help you learn about the drone laws in a specific country.
When traveling to countries where it is legal to fly a drone, you should:
- Research the country’s drone laws.
- Verify if there are any drone laws that apply only to foreigners.
- Identify whether you must register your drone with the nation’s national or civil aviation authority.
- Observe the licensing and certification requirements set forth by the county for drones.
When traveling to countries where it is illegal to fly a drone, we do not recommend bringing your drone. There’s a chance customs officials will seize your drone. It may or may not be returned to you at the end of your trip upon leaving the country on your return flight.
When traveling to countries where no drone laws are established, you should not assume that you’ll be able to bring or fly your drone in that country. While there are currently no drone laws in place, this does not necessarily mean that you are free to fly wherever you want. In fact, it is possible that authorities will generally oppose the use of drones, particularly by tourists.
Bringing a drone through customs comes with the same word of caution. When a country doesn’t have drone-specific laws, some customs agents decide to seize drones, while others decide not to. However, it’s almost impossible to know what you’ll encounter until you arrive with your drone.
As an additional safety measure for U.S. travelers, you may have the option to register your drone with Customs as a “Personal Effect Taken Abroad” prior to traveling. By doing this, you’ll avoid any confusion over whether you’re bringing back the drone you took with you when you left or bringing in a brand-new drone you bought abroad.
Conclusion: Drone Batteries on Planes
Drones with batteries of power rating greater than 100 Wh are subject to additional restrictions (to find out the power rating of your drone batteries, check the user manual or read the inscriptions on the battery itself.
Explosive filming and photography opportunities can arise when traveling with a drone. Drones can make great traveling companions with a little advanced preparation and research, and you won’t have to worry about causing any legal trouble or having your drone seized.
Can You Take Lithium Drone Batteries on a Plane?
None for most batteries — but batteries must be for use by the passenger. Batteries carried for further sale or distribution (vendor samples, etc.) are prohibited. The larger lithium-ion batteries mentioned above (each rated at 101–160 watt-hours) are limited to two spare batteries per person.
How Do You Pack a Drone Battery?
All lipo batteries MUST be carried in passenger hand luggage except that it is fine to leave a battery in the drone itself, which can be packed into checked luggage.
How Do You Carry a DJI Drone on a Plane?
A drone below 250 gm in weight can be carried either in the checked-in or cabin luggage. The batteries would need to be taken out and required to go in the cabin luggage.